The Dunkirk Perimeter and Evacuation 1940

The Dunkirk Perimeter and Evacuation 1940

Author
Jerry Murland
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
The Dunkirk Perimeter and Evacuation 1940, written by Jerry Murland, is part of Pen & Sword’s France and Flanders Campaign and sits in the Battleground Dunkirk series. As such, it is very much written as a battlefield guide, both for the armchair historian and those more willing to travel.

The British seem to have a habit of celebrating failure (think Dunkirk and Arnhem) more than they do success (perhaps the Rhine Crossings of 1945) but not always learning from them. I’m yet to do a tour of Dunkirk and its environs and this book has certainly inspired me to do it (I just need to persuade the chain of command…). Murland’s writing neatly straddles the perhaps drier aspects of the facts of who commanded what and when and where units moved to meet the various crises with the highly-personal, soldier’s-eye view of the fighting. This is not always easy, especially in a guide which main aim is to support visits and tours, thus the dry facts are sometimes crucial.

Murland describes quite simply the build-up to the evacuation and the formation of the perimeter at Dunkirk, by both British and French forces (the author gently reminds us how hard the French fought to allow so many British to escape) and the German forces on the other side. The subsequent chapters cover the fighting by the British by the Corps involved and shows the desperate straits that the British forces were often in and how hard both sides fought. What is also included is the logistics of the evacuation and how the British organised it; coupled with this is a chapter entitled ‘The Reality’. I found this the most powerful as it describes events by critical incidents or locations and contains many personal accounts.

The maps are largely those of the time and bring the commentary to life, as they are routinely tied into the personal accounts. There are also many photographs of the time which are well-used in bringing the narrative to life.

Given that this is a guidebook, I was surprised that there were only two tours and one walk listed; I was expecting a few more. That said, the advice on how to conduct the tours (ie the logistics around them) is well thought-out and sensible. The author has also provided a simple bibliography for further reading and, for fact junkies like me, the appendices are full of facts about the evacuation.

This is a good guide, both for the more sedentary types and those who want to get and be more active. It’s suitable both as a guide and as a good entry-level study of the campaign for those coming to it new. It’s good stuff all round.
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